Directed Energy WeaponsSupport

Lockheed Martin is developing ‘drone-frying’ laser CANNONS under $150 million contract from US Navy

Cheyenne McDonald
The Daily Mail

Lockheed Martin is developing a powerful new pair of cannons that can shoot down drones using high energy laser beams.

Under a $150 million contract from the US Navy, the firm plans to develop, manufacture, and test the new weapons by 2020.

The goal is to demonstrate one on land, and the second aboard an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, according to Motherboard.

Lockheed Martin’s newest weapons will come under a contract with the US Navy to build a High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with surveillance system, the Department of Defense says.

The weapons will use as much as 150 kilowatts of power per shot, allowing them to take out, boats, and if upgraded, even missiles, according to Motherboard.

For the latter, however, the system would need to be boosted to 300 kilowatts.

In a recent announcement, the Department of Defense detailed the timeline and some of the requirements for the Lockheed Martin’s new contract.

And, while it now stands at $150 million, the contract’s value could increase dramatically.

‘Lockheed Martin Aculight Corp. will develop, manufacture, and deliver two test units in fiscal 2020 (one unit for DDG 51 FLT IIA, and one for land-based testing),’ according to the Department of Defense.

‘This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $942,818,114.’

The new High Energy Laser is just the latest effort by Lockheed Martin to harness directed energy for more efficient weapons.

The firm is also working to develop a high-power fiber laser for fighter jets, and has tested similar systems to be mounted on vehicles or fired from the ground.

Under another $26.3 million contract from the Air Force Research Lab, the firm will design and produce a directed energy system for aircraft, with plans to test the technology by 2021.

The move comes after a series of successful tests with similar systems in ground-based platforms – but, the experts say developing a laser for a smaller, airborne design will be a challenge.

The AFRL awarded the contract last year as part of its Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator program.

This program includes three subsystems, addressing beam control to direct a laser to the target, a pod mounted on the jet to cool the laser, and the laser itself.

The new laser system would allow fighter jets to take down targets from the air, in contrast to previous systems, which were mounted on vehicles or ships.

‘We have demonstrated our ability to use directed energy to counter threats from the ground, and look forward to future tests from the air as part of the SHiELD system,’ said Dr Rob Afzal, senior fellow of laser weapon systems at Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin’s laser is a beam combined fiber laser, meaning it brings together individual lasers, generated through fiber optics, to generate a single, intense laser beam.

This allows for a scalable laser system that can be made more powerful by adding more fiber laser subunits.

Athena uses Lockheed Martin’s company’s 30-kW Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (ALADIN).

It’s powered by a compact Rolls-Royce turbo generator.

Army bosses hope the radical weapon will give protection against threats such as swarms of drones or large numbers of rockets and mortars.

The Laser Advancements for the Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE) aims to be a high energy laser that can be trained on, and disable, an enemy target.

The LANCE contract will build upon the technology used in other recent projects, including the Athena system and Aladin laser.

‘Earlier this year, we delivered a 60 kW-class laser to be installed on a US Army Ground vehicle,’ said Afzal.

‘It’s a completely new and different challenge to get a laser system into a smaller, airborne test platform.

‘It’s exciting to see this technology mature enough to embed in an aircraft.

‘The development of high power laser systems like SHiELD show laser weapon system technologies are becoming real.

‘The technologies are ready to be produced, tested, and deployed on aircraft, ground vehicles, and ships.’

In September, Lockheed Martin released footage from tests with its ‘Athena’ laser weapon system, revealing how it can deliver an invisible killing blow to take down an enemy drone.

In the tests conducted at New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range, the prototype weapon successfully shot down five unmanned Outlaw aircraft.

The hair-raising footage shows the moment flames burst from the tails of the flying drones one by one before they plummet toward the ground, as the silent attack causes both loss of control and structural failure.

Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command conducted the tests in August, using the 30-kilowatt class Advanced Test High Energy Asset (Athena) system.

Athena is a ground-based system that can be mounted atop tanks and other vehicles.

But, one day, it could even be installed on military planes, helicopters, and ships.

Back in 2015, the company used the 30kW fiber laser weapon to disable a truck from a mile away.

And, this past March, Lockheed Martin completed the design, development and demonstration of a radical 60 kW laser weapon for the U.S. Army.

In testing earlier that month, the Lockheed Martin laser produced a single beam of 58 kW, representing a world record for a laser of this type.

Army bosses hope the radical weapon will give protection against threats such as swarms of drones or large numbers of rockets and mortars.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *